Startups

Does the metaverse even exist?

Manassas, Virginia-based startup Scrypted is developing digital assets in the metaverse — even though CEO Tim Cotten isn't convinced there is such a thing yet.
For NoVa’s Scrypted, the future of blockchain and metaverse-based gaming doesn’t have to come from obvious tech hubs like San Francisco or Austin. There’s a space to carve out right here in the DMV.

The Manassas, Virginia-based startup was recently selected to participate in the Virginia Serious Games Institute Excellerator, a business incubator in partnership between George Mason University and Prince William County. The company launched in January with an initial $100,000 pre-seed round, and founder and CEO Tim Cotten has big plans for the rest of the year.

Scrypted, currently five employees strong, is a “metaverse-centric” company looking to solve the still-to-be-worked-out issues of the metaverse. The company helps creators manage digital copies of their artwork and potential nonfungible tokens, assist those already in the metaverse game, and create blockchain-based video games.

But, Cotten told Technical.ly, there’s something he wants everyone to know about the metaverse.

“We’re building digital assets for the metaverse, and I think the most important part of that is the metaverse does not exist yet,” Cotten, also Scrypted’s CEO. “And anyone who tells you that it exists right now is a liar and a very good marketer.”

The metaverse, Cotten thinks, is really the idea of owning your own digital identity. Instead of social media companies and others owning your digital self, he envisions a place where the digital presence can be shared across platforms and users can own their own virtual assets and accomplishments.

This idea comes, in part, from Cotten’s background of 20 years in the game development space. After working at game developers Electronic Arts and Mythic Entertainment, he eventually took a role as CTO at Agilla Pro, integrating things like cryptocurrency into the company’s software. But last year, he realized he wanted to be more involved in the metaverse and Web3 spaces, and founded Scrypted on Jan. 1. The platform is primarily built with the Ethereum virtual machine, and the games are full-stack in HTML, JavaScript, Python and PHP.

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"Anyone who tells you that it exists right now is a liar and a very good marketer."
Scrypted CEO Tim Cotten on the metaverse

Cotten was interested specifically in digital assets and blockchain-based games, he said, for the decentralization it can provide. He hopes to create a space where instead of players being the product, they can buy certain parts of the game, like artwork.

“What’s so interesting about blockchain and gaming is the way that it’s turning the players not into a product, but into actual stakeholders and having interest,” Cotten said.

As it continues on in the Excellerator, Cotten has high hopes for the company’s growth in 2022. He expects to hire more full-time staff in the third and fourth quarters and add to Scrypted’s waitlist (which he said is currently at 10,000 strong). He also eventually plans to open up an official seed round in the $1.5 million to $3 million range. And he anticipates large companies putting money into the space, which he hopes can grow the gaming scene in Northern Virginia.

And he’s not the only one. Virginia’s Prince William County is also looking to boost support for the metaverse and the area’s role in it, according to Jeff Green, a business development manager at Prince William’s Department of Economic Development.

“Prince William County worked with George Mason University to form the Virginia Serious Gaming Institute Excellerator almost a decade ago,” Green said. “At the Department of Economic Development, we believe supporting existing and future technology in the metaverse will help all our companies, whether in cybersecurity, life sciences or logistics.”

As the metaverse and Web3 grow, Cotten has a few predictions for the space. He expects a huge effort over the next few years to improve technology with things like making headsets more nimble and with better batteries.

“We’re going to see things start standardizing around like some ideas of, ‘OK, the metaverse should use this kind of communication technology, it should interact with this kind of digital identity and it should be client agnostic,'” he said. “So we’ll eventually have a tool chain that make metaverse development as easy as current game development. “

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